When my son was 6 weeks old, I bundled him and my 4 year old daughter up one crazy windy November morning and headed out.
I had barely left the house since his birth and my daughter was going stir crazy, so I was taking her to a preschool class at the Imaginarium.
While Alex and I waited for Alaina to finish up her class, a tiny boy approached our stroller. He placed his little hand gently on Alex’s cheek and said, “Is he okay?”
It was such a sweet gesture, and reflexively, I simultaneously answered -"He’s just sleeping, buddy.”- and drew my thumb over his lips and chin.
He moved his mouth, a little. But he seemed pale. For about two seconds, I chalked it up to the fluorescent lighting, but then the blood came. It poured, bright red from his mouth and darker from his nose.
It wouldnt stop, and I didn’t know where it was coming from and was terrified of giving CPR and blowing it back into his lungs but luckily a businessman having lunch at the restaurant next door was on his way to the bathroom and noticed the circle that had formed around us, a panicking mother and her tiny baby boy in an ever-expanding puddle of blood.
He was a CPR instructor in his free time. He picked alex up-Alex wasnt even as long as the distance from his fingers to his elbow-and he kept my child alive until EMS arrived.
He ignored the man screaming about hemorrhagic fever and AIDS, while managing to quietly have him removed from the room. He knew all the first responders by name, and what to tell them about Alex’s condition.
I left my daughter in the hands of a stranger-a woman who had counseled survivors of hurricane Katrina-and got in the ambulance with my still bleeding son, neither of us able to breathe.
Alex’s lungs had basically exploded. Idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis, they called it. A doctor in Cleveland had done a study that traced most cases to male infants exposed to stachybotris mold. We were clearing out our crawlspace at the time.
It was his usual naptime. If I hadn’t decided to lug the kids to class that day, he would have been lying flat on his back and just quietly drowned in his own blood. The doctors said we probably would not have even seen any blood. It would have presented as SIDS.
Most of the babies in Dr. Dearborne’s study had died; Alex’s odds were not good. He was put into a medically induced coma so his blood would have the chance to clot, and left as still as possible. His pediatrician came to the hospital to prepare us for what was coming, and then, Alex lived.
His lungs bled for 3 more years, though much less, thanks to high dose steroids. He had to wear a pulse-ox when he slept, and it fell off his tiny toe every 5 minutes, so I stopped sleeping. Eventually, the weight of it all ended in a contentious divorce, a stent in rehab, loss of home, job, and everything I knew.
It’s been over 12 years, and I have a healthy son, and the grief still hits me from nowhere when I least expect it.
I cant believe anyone with children could be dispassionate enough to tell a mother who has lost a child to let go or get over it. I’m so sorry this (or any of the other platitudes) was said to you.
The loss of a child is OBVIOUSLY not something one ever gets over. A child is not someone a parent ever “let’s go of".
Please never stop telling your story, and Ana’s story.